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Thread: Abraham Lincoln

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    Default Abraham Lincoln

    What are your guesses?


    Last edited by silke; 06-19-2014 at 10:31 PM. Reason: updated links
    "Wenn der Deutsche in einen Satz taucht, dann hat man ihn die längste Zeit gesehen, bis er auf der anderen Seite des Ozeans wieder auftaucht mit seinem Verb im Mund." - Mark Twain

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    Mariano Rajoy's Avatar
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    that is what i was getting at. if there is an inescapable appropriation that is required in the act of understanding, this brings into question the validity of socionics in describing what is real, and hence stubborn contradictions that continue to plague me.

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    ILE - ENTp 1981slater's Avatar
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    Enneagram: 7w6 "Enthusiast"
    MBTI: ENTJ "Field Marshall" or ENTP "Inventor"
    Astrological sign: Aquarius

    To learn, read. To know, write. To master, teach.

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    you can't use his facial features, body, or depression to type him
    SEE-Se, 873 sx/so

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    Quote Originally Posted by vague
    Rocky's posts are as enjoyable as having wisdom teeth removed.

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    they embalmed him nightly when his corpse went on tour.

    fuckin sping of '86 dude, fuckin i still got my top hat from that show dude. they say if you go to his tomb today man, you can still kind of smell the fluid they used to embalm him, it's better when it rains though.

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    I think he was ILI/INTp actually.
    , LIE, ENTj logical subtype, 8w9 sx/sp
    Quote Originally Posted by implied
    gah you're like the shittiest ENTj ever!

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    I tend also more to INTp than j.
    "Wenn der Deutsche in einen Satz taucht, dann hat man ihn die längste Zeit gesehen, bis er auf der anderen Seite des Ozeans wieder auftaucht mit seinem Verb im Mund." - Mark Twain

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    In my opinion, Lincoln was EII.
    He went down in history as a moral authority and a man of great conscience. He wrote famous letters filled with profound empathy and gratitude for others' sacrifices (that he didn't have to write if he didn't want to) that have since become classics of American prose. I think he's a rare and classic example of great political leadership through . I don't see him as IEI because he didn't have a revolutionary ideology (e.g. like Gandhi); he just wanted to preserve the status quo at all cost and do justice to all sides of the conflict (not "logical" justice, but "ethical" fairness so that all are appeased).

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    Sidenote: Am I the only one who thinks that Ghandi was probably a logical type?

    Quote Originally Posted by vague
    Rocky's posts are as enjoyable as having wisdom teeth removed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky
    Sidenote: Am I the only one who thinks that Ghandi was probably a logical type?
    6w5 sx
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    I could see Gandhi as INTj.
    , LIE, ENTj logical subtype, 8w9 sx/sp
    Quote Originally Posted by implied
    gah you're like the shittiest ENTj ever!

  13. #13


    Does anyone else see a huge resemplance between Lincoln and Ralph Nader? could almost be brothers...

    for what it's worth MBTI says Ralph is an INFJ

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    Let's fly now Gilly's Avatar
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    Abe looks ENTj/INTp to me.

    Ralph...I'll go with xNTj
    But, for a certainty, back then,
    We loved so many, yet hated so much,
    We hurt others and were hurt ourselves...

    Yet even then, we ran like the wind,
    Whilst our laughter echoed,
    Under cerulean skies...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bionicgoat
    Does anyone else see a huge resemplance between Lincoln and Ralph Nader? could almost be brothers...

    for what it's worth MBTI says Ralph is an INFJ

    Lincoln's distinctive facial features are a direct result of a genetic connective tissue disorder. People with this and similar connective tissue disorders have facial features similar to that of Lincoln, Bin Laden, Howard Stern, and an INTj I know.

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    Your saying that David Blane wannabe looks more like Lincoln than Ralph does?!???!??!

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    no. I'm saying that Lincoln's facial features have NOTHING to do with his type... they are a result of Marfan Syndrome.
    SEE-Se, 873 sx/so

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    I never said it was type related, just that Abe and Ralph are look-a-likes. Maybe Ralph has that connective tissue defect thing too.

    maybe POLR = connective tissue defect

    BTW your friend does look alot like David Blane in that first pic. Must both be the same type

    (Sorry if I'm being a dick... I've been drinking )

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    i think if i read some of these to anyone who knows me well without stating the author they'd ask if this were me.

    anyhow, without carefully going over his history and making this a life's work, i'd say INTp, possibly ENTj intuitive sub.
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    Default Another Guess

    I think Ralph Nader was typed as ENFP.
    I think he is ENFP.
    It seems quite likely Lincoln was too.
    Yes, I know he had a genetic disorder but his type would still shine through...
    "Arnie is strong, rightfully angry and wants to kill somebody."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bionicgoat
    Does anyone else see a huge resemplance between Lincoln and Ralph Nader? could almost be brothers...

    for what it's worth MBTI says Ralph is an INFJ
    Thanks for the tip. They indeed seem to have a similar emphasis in their work, a similar reputation as moral authorities, and certain similarities in personality and appearance.

    A few years ago someone came with a biography of Lincoln in Russian to a discussion group of experienced socionists in Kiev and read a bunch of passages about his life, marriage, and personality. Pretty much everyone there thought he was EII, but one person thought he could also be IEE. So many of the attitudes Lincoln expressed were classic type sentiments. Looking at Nader I would say the same. I'm not yet sure he's not IEE, though.

    Regarding Marfan syndrome and V.I., here is a list of people with it from Their appearance and demeanor are clearly distinct, regardless of the syndrome. You can go to the link and click on the names in the list to view their respective bios and pics.
    Below is a list of prominent figures known or believed to have had Marfan syndrome (most are according to the U.S. National Marfan Foundation):

    Abraham Lincoln
    Vincent Schiavelli, actor
    Jonathan Larson, Tony Award-winning playwright (Rent)
    Flo Hyman, captain, U.S. Olympic Volleyball team, 1984 (silver medalist)
    Chris Patton, college basketball player (University of Maryland)
    Akhenaten, possibly the father of King Tut
    Charles de Gaulle
    Mary Queen of Scots
    John Tavener, composer

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bionicgoat
    BTW your friend does look alot like David Blane in that first pic. Must both be the same type
    Well, Josh is without a doubt INTj. I think he would be a very happy person if he could make a living like David Blaine does. He has done a lot of stunts involving not eating for like a week and otherwise testing the limits of his body, and he has done a lot of "tricks" using his flexability and messed up joints. He also used to do things like break plates over his head at parties and whatnot.
    SEE-Se, 873 sx/so

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    It looks like Josh is giving some aurburn haired harlot the love in the reference section.

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    that's me, and it was at the justice of the peace's office from when my sister got married
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    Default Abraham Lincoln

    - from Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His

    by Joshua Wolf Shenk; pp. 1-4: In early May 1860, a week before the

    Republican party held its national convention in Chicago, the delegates from Illinois met

    in Decatur, a small town in the center of the state. They met in what they called a

    “wigwam,” a kind of urban barn, built over a vacant lot with a canvas roof held up by

    wood beams. When the Decatur convention opened, on May 9, three thousand men

    packed inside. After an initial round of huzzahs, at the start of the afternoon session, a

    thirty-five-year-old politician named Richard Oglesby took the stage. “I am informed,” he

    said, “that a distinguished citizen of Illinois, and one who Illinois will ever delight to

    honor, is present and I wish to move that this body invite him to a seat on the stand.”

    The crowd waited to hear the man’s name, but Oglesby paused – as though, observed

    a man in the crowd, “to tease expectation to the verge of desperation.”

    At that moment, Abraham Lincoln was crouched on his heels at the back of the hall,

    just inside the entrance. A fifty-one-year-old lawyer and a veteran of the state

    legislature, Lincoln had left his last political office, as U.S. representative, eleven years

    before. After one middling term in Congress, he mostly stayed away from politics for

    five years. Then, in 1854, an old debate over slavery took a new turn with the repeal of

    the Missouri Compromise, which, Lincoln wrote, “aroused me again.” Pressing his

    argument against the extension of slavery, and for its eventual extinction, he helped

    build the new Republican party in Illinois. In 1858, he challenged Stephen Douglas for

    his Senate seat, losing the race but gaining a national reputation from the campaign

    debates. In February 1860, he dazzled a crowd at New York City’s Cooper Union with

    an antislavery speech the New York Tribune called among “the most convincing

    political arguments ever made in this city.”

    Lincoln came to the Decatur convention in May as a rising star. When Oglesby

    called his name from the stage of the wigwam, the delegates and onlookers broke

    into thunderous applause. A half-dozen men seized Lincoln and tried to push him to

    the front of the room. When that didn’t work – the room was too full – they lifted him up

    on their shoulders and passed him, not unlike in a mosh pit today, over the mass of

    people to the stage. The crowd roared its approval.

    Still, those in the wigwam knew that Lincoln stood a slim chance to take the national

    nomination the following week at Chicago. Most Republicans expected that the honor

    would fall to Senator William Seward, the party’s leading man. Lincoln, by contrast,

    failed to rate a mention on preconvention scorecards of seven, twelve, even twenty-one

    candidates. Lincoln couldn’t even count on the backing of his own state convention at

    Decatur, which he badly wanted. “I am not in a position where it would hurt much for me

    to not be nominated on the national ticket,” he wrote, “but I am where it would hurt some

    for me to not get the Illinois delegates.”

    Richard Oglesby, the young politician who was managing the convention, knew

    Lincoln’s position and wanted to improve it. An ambitious and energetic man – he

    would become a major general in the Union army and, soon afterward, governor of

    Illinois – Oglesby wanted to deliver the state’s delegates for him. Not some, but all;

    not in a tepid fashion, but with a rousing cheer.

    Oglesby had decided that Lincoln needed something to distinguish himself—a catch

    phrase like “Log Cabin and Hard Cider,” which had helped elect William Henry

    Harrison in 1840. So before the convention, Oglesby had gone to see a white-whiskered

    old farmer named John Hanks. Hanks was Lincoln’s mother’s cousin and had lived with

    the Lincoln family when they first came to Illinois in 1830. Oglesby asked what kind of

    work Lincoln had done in those days. “Not much of any kind but dreaming,” Hanks

    replied. Then he told the story of how he and Lincoln had once cleared fifteen or

    twenty acres of black walnut and honey locust trees, built a cabin, and mauled rails

    for fences.

    “John,” Oglesby asked, “did you split rails down there with old Abe?”

    “Yes, every day,” Hanks answered.

    “Do you suppose you could find any of them now?”

    Hanks said he had seen that old fence about ten years before, and he took Oglesby

    there the next day. While Oglesby waited in his buggy, Hanks chipped away at the

    fence with a knife. When he came up with shavings that were black walnut and honey

    locust, he declared, “They are the identical rails we made.”

    The rails were just what Oglesby wanted: symbols of free labor, solid character,

    triumph over the crude frontier, humble origins, and the strength to rise. He and

    Hanks took two of them, tied them to Oglesby’s buggy, and brought them to town.

    Then, on the first day of the state convention, Oglesby introduced Lincoln with a

    flourish. This was John Hanks’s cue. As Lincoln reached the stage, Hanks burst into

    the wigwam carrying the rails. A banner hanging from them explained that Lincoln had

    split them and announced, in large letters:


    The Rail Candidate


    The crowd went wild. Delegates and onlookers threw hats, books, and canes into the

    air. The wigwam shook so much that its canvas exterior became detached from the

    wood beams. “The roof was literally cheered off the building,” declared an early

    account of the maelstrom. The energy of the crowd foreshadowed Lincoln’s success.

    The state’s delegates soon resolved to back Lincoln unanimously. Buoyed by the

    “rail-splitter” image, Lincoln would vault into place as William Seward’s main rival for

    the Republican nomination. On that stage, then, Lincoln stood at the peak of three hard

    decades in politics. “Lincoln’s name was in every mouth,” recalled Joseph G. Cannon,

    who later became Speaker of the House of Representatives, “and in those stirring

    times everything was on fire.”

    Yet, to the wigwam audience in Decatur, Lincoln presented a strange figure. He didn’t

    seem euphoric, or triumphant, or even pleased. To the contrary, said a man named

    Johnson, observing from the convention floor, “I then thought him one of the most

    diffident and worst plagued men I ever saw.”

    The next day, the convention closed. The crowds dispersed, leaving behind cigar stubs

    and handbills and the smell of sweat and whiskey. After the wigwam had emptied, a

    Republican journalist named William J. Bross walked the floor. He noticed his state

    party’s choice for president sitting alone at the end of the hall. Lincoln’s head was

    bowed, his gangly arms bent at the elbows, his hands pressed to his face. As

    Bross approached, Lincoln noticed him and said, “I’m not very well.”

    Lincoln’s look at that moment—the classic image of gloom—was familiar to everyone

    who knew him well. These spells were common. And they were just one thread in a

    curious fabric of behavior and thought that Lincoln’s friends and colleagues called his

    “melancholy.” He often wept in public and recited maudlin poetry. He told jokes and

    stories at odd times—he needed the laughs, he said, for his survival. As a young man

    he talked of suicide, and as he grew older, he said he saw the world as hard and grim,

    full of misery, made that way by fates and forces of God.
    “No element of Mr.

    Lincoln’s character,” declared his colleague Henry Whitney, “was so marked, obvious

    and ingrained as his mysterious and profound melancholy.”* His law partner William

    Herndon said, “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.”

    * Henry C. Whitney, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, 139

    - pp. 7-8: Necessary as it is to acknowledge the plain facts and where they lead, it

    is also important to acknowledge the limits of what we can know. Those of us who are

    familiar with melancholy well know its elusive nature. It operates in deep recesses of

    thought and feeling, hidden not only from the view of an observer but, often, from the

    melancholic as well. The goal is not to know Lincoln’s melancholy perfectly, but to

    know it as best we can, and to see what story emerges.

    In broad terms, that story is fairly straightforward. From a young age, Lincoln

    experienced psychological pain and distress, to the point that he believed himself

    temperamentally inclined to suffer to an unusual degree. He learned how to

    articulate his suffering, find succor, endure, and adapt. Finally, he forged

    meaning from his affliction so that it became not merely an obstacle to overcome, but a

    factor in his good life.

    This is a story for our time. Affecting more than 100 million people a year, depression is

    the world’s leading cause of disability. In 2000, about a million people worldwide

    killed themselves—about equal to the number of deaths from war and homicide that

    year put together. Adjusting for population growth, unipolar depression is ten times

    more prevalent than it was fifty years ago. When we face this reality, the suffering of a

    prominent man in history takes on new poignancy, especially as it illuminates not

    only the nature of suffering but also the way it can become part of a productive life.

    As I worked on this book, I heard three main questions about Lincoln’s melancholy.

    First, was it a “clinical depression”? Part One investigates how Lincoln’s melancholy

    manifested itself in his early life and young manhood and how it fits—and challenges—

    the diagnostic categories of modern psychiatry. Second, what kind of treatment did he

    undergo? Part Two shows what Lincoln did in response to his melancholy, the

    strategies he used to heal and help himself. Third, in what way did the melancholy

    contribute to his work as a public figure? Part Three addresses how Lincoln’s

    melancholy became intertwined with his mature character, ideas, and actions.

    This is the story of a man who joined great pain and great power. From his early

    letters lamenting the “peculiar misfortune” of his temperament, to poetry he wrote

    on subjects such as suicide and madness, Lincoln’s life sprang from a search for

    meaning that explained, and even ennobled, his affliction. As president, Lincoln

    urged his countrymen to accept their blessing and their burden, to see that their

    suffering had meaning, and to join him on a journey toward a more perfect Union.

    - from Abraham Lincoln by James M. McPherson; pp. 9-12: Although ill at

    ease with women, Lincoln in 1836 began a half-hearted courtship of Mary Owens,

    whose sister lived in New Salem. A year later she broke off the relationship, to the

    probable relief of both parties. In 1839 Lincoln met Mary Todd, who had come

    from Kentucky to live with her married sister in Springfield. Despite the contrast

    between the educated, cultured, and socially prominent daughter of a Lexington

    banker and the socially awkward, rough-hewn son of an illiterate farmer, Mary

    and Abraham fell in love and became engaged in 1840.

    What happened next remains uncertain and has been the subject of much

    speculation and debate among biographers. Lincoln seems to have developed

    doubts about his fitness for marriage and broke the engagement. He may

    have become infatuated with another young woman who visited Springfield

    that year, Matilda Edwards. It is even possible that a rivalry for Edwards’s

    affections developed between Lincoln and his best friend, Joshua Speed.

    Whatever took place, it seemed to have reached some sort of climax on New

    Year’s Day 1841—a day that Lincoln later referred to as “that fatal first of

    Jany. ’41.” Lincoln plunged into an even deeper depression than had

    followed Ann Rutledge’s death. Three weeks after that “fatal first of Jany.” he

    wrote that “if what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family,

    there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.”* He told Joshua Speed

    that he would be “more than willing to die” except “that he had done nothing to

    make any human being remember that he had lived.” [Herndon’s Life of

    , ed. Paul M. Angle (New York, 1949), 304; Joshua Speed to William H.

    Herndon, Feb. 7, 1866, in Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and

    Statements about Abraham Lincoln
    , eds. Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O.

    Davis (Urbana, Ill., 1998), 197.]

    * Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 229.

    Lincoln’s depression may have stemmed from feelings of guilt about his

    treatment of Mary Todd. He would be happy enough, he wrote to Joshua Speed in

    1842, were it not “for the never-absent idea, that there is one still unhappy

    whom I have contributed to make so. That still kills my soul. I can not but

    reproach myself, for even wishing to be happy while she is otherwise.” Soon

    after writing this letter, Lincoln resumed his courtship of Mary Todd. Speed had

    married in 1842, and his assurance that matrimony was not so frightening after all

    seems to have encouraged a conflicted Lincoln. On November 4, 1842, he and

    Mary were wed in her sister’s home.

    The quality of their marriage has been much debated among historians. It

    produced four sons—the first, Robert, was born exactly nine months after their

    marriage. Mary shared Abraham’s lively interest in public affairs. He often sought

    her advice and she encouraged his political ambition. In personality, however,

    they were in many ways opposites. He was disorganized, careless in dress, and

    indifferent to social niceties; she was quick-tempered, sometimes shrewish,

    dressed expensively, and lived by the strict decorum of Victorian conventions. He

    got along with almost everybody; she quarreled with servants, workmen,

    merchants, and some of Lincoln’s friends. He was absent from home on the legal

    or political circuit for weeks at a time, leaving her to cope with the trials of

    household management and child rearing. His moodiness sometimes clashed

    with her fits of temper. Over time her mental stability became more fragile. Recent

    scholarship suggests that she may have suffered from bipolar disorder. [Jason

    Emerson, The Madness of Mary Lincoln (Carbondale, Ill., 2007).]

    After retiring from the state legislature in 1841, Lincoln devoted most of his time

    to his law practice. The same year he formed a new partnership with Stephen T.

    Logan, who helped him become more thorough and meticulous in preparing his

    cases. The Springfield courts sat only a few weeks a year, requiring Lincoln and

    other lawyers to ride the circuit of county courts throughout central Illinois for

    several months each spring and fall. Most of his cases involved damage to

    crops by foraging livestock, property disputes, debts, and assault and

    battery, with an occasional murder trial to liven interest. Lincoln was

    especially effective with juries. His homespun humor and ability to explain

    legal issues in colloquial language gave him an edge with the laymen who made

    up these juries. Lincoln also had a knack for focusing on the main issue in a

    trial and conceding nonessential points to his adversary, lulling him into

    complacency. “But giving away six points and carrying the seventh he carried his

    case . . . the whole case hanging on the seventh,” wrote a fellow lawyer. “Any

    man who took Lincoln for a simple-minded man would wind up with his back in a

    ditch.” By the time of his marriage Lincoln was earning $1,200 a year, income

    equal to the governor’s salary. In 1844 he bought a house in Springfield—the

    only home he ever owned. He also dissolved his partnership with Logan and

    formed a new one with twenty-six-year-old William H. Herndon, to whom

    Lincoln became a mentor.

    - pp. 3-7: . . . . With a desire for learning and an ambition for self-improvement,

    [the young Abraham Lincoln] devoured every book he could borrow from the

    meager libraries of friends and neighbors. The King James Bible and Pilgrim’s

    offered him maxims for life as well as a model for the poetic prose

    that characterized the best of his later writings. Thomas Lincoln neither

    encouraged nor understood his son’s intellectual ambition; quite the contrary, he

    chastised Abraham’s “lazy” preference for reading over working.

    The teenaged Abraham’s thinly veiled disdain for the life of a backwoods farmer

    doubtless irritated his father. Abraham in turn resented the requirement of law

    and custom that any wages he earned before he reached the age of twenty-one—

    by hiring out to neighbors to split rails, for example—must be turned over to his

    father. Abraham Lincoln’s hatred of slavery, which denied to slaves the “fruits of

    their labor,” may have been influenced by Thomas Lincoln’s expropriation of

    Abraham’s earnings. In any event, relations between Abraham and his

    father grew increasingly strained. When Thomas lay dying in January 1851, he

    sent word that he wanted to say goodbye to his son. Abraham refused to make

    the eighty-mile trip, stating that “If we could meet now, it is doubtful whether it

    would not be more painful than pleasant.”* He did not attend his father’s funeral.

    * Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New

    Brunswick, N.J., 1953-55), 2:97.

    In 1828 Lincoln and a friend took a flatboat loaded with farm produce down the

    Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. He repeated the experience in 1831.

    These trips widened his horizons and, according to popular belief, shocked him

    with the sight of men and women being bought and sold in the slave markets of

    New Orleans. Recalling another trip on the Ohio River to Louisville, he wrote

    years later that “there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together

    with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it

    every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border.”

    Although Abraham came of age in 1830, he did not strike out on his own.

    Once more his father sold the farm and set forth to greener pastures, this time in

    central Illinois. After helping his father clear land, Abraham hired out to split

    rails for other farmers—and this time he kept his earnings. In the summer of

    1831 he settled in New Salem, a village on the Sangamon River bluff about

    twenty miles northwest of Springfield.

    Lincoln’s six years in New Salem were a formative period. For a time he drifted

    from one job to another: store clerk, mill hand, partner in a general store that

    failed, postmaster, surveyor. His partner in the general store drank up all the

    profits and then died. Although Lincoln was required by law to repay only his

    half share of the debts left by the store’s failure, he insisted on repaying all

    creditors in full. He wryly referred to this burden as his “national debt,” but he

    also earned a valuable reputation as “honest Abe,” a nickname that would stick.

    Six feet four inches tall, with a lanky, rawboned look, unruly coarse black

    hair, large ears, a gregarious personality, and a penchant for telling humorous

    stories, Lincoln made many friends. Among them were Jack Armstrong and his

    gang of young toughs, “the Clary Grove boys.” As the new kid in town with a

    reputation for physical strength, Lincoln had to prove his mettle in a wrestling

    match with Armstrong, who had previously beaten all challengers. Sources

    disagree on who won the match—apparently it was a draw—but Lincoln won the

    respect and loyalty of Armstrong and his friends despite his refusal to

    participate in their drinking and hell-raising.

    In 1832 the Sac and Fox Indians under Chief Black Hawk returned to their

    ancestral homeland in Illinois, precipitating the short-lived Black Hawk War.

    Lincoln volunteered for the militia and was elected captain of his company,

    which included the Clary Grove boys. They saw no action, but Lincoln later

    recalled his election as captain as the most gratifying honor of his life. But he

    also mocked his own military experience in a later speech on the floor of the

    national House of Representatives, when as a congressman he opposed the

    Mexican War. “Did you know I am a military hero?” he asked the Speaker of the

    House. “I fought, bled, and came away” after “charges upon the wild onions” and

    “a good many bloody struggles with the Musquetoes.”

    Another side of Lincoln’s complex personality was a deeply reflective, almost

    brooding quality that sometimes descended into serious depression. Lincoln

    described this condition as “the hypo,” for hypochondria, as medical science

    then termed it. This recurring ailment, coupled with Lincoln’s almost morbid

    fondness for William Knox’s lugubrious poem “Mortality” (1824) and his later

    self-reported dreams in which death figured prominently, may have resulted

    from the deaths of loved ones: his mother, his sister Sarah in childbirth in

    1828, and Ann Rutledge seven years later. Lincoln met Ann Rutledge at her

    father’s tavern in New Salem, where he boarded in 1833. Their story has

    taken on so many layers of myth and antimyth that the truth is difficult to

    determine. For half a century, until the 1990s, professional historians

    discounted the notion of their love and engagement, but new scholarship has

    revived the credibility of a Lincoln-Rutledge romance, and biographers now

    accept its reality. Ann Rutledge died in August 1835, probably of typhoid fever,

    and Lincoln suffered a prolonged spell of “hypo” after her death.

    During the New Salem years Lincoln developed new purpose and direction. The

    local schoolmaster, the aptly named Mentor Graham, guided his study of

    mathematics and literature. Lincoln joined a debating society, and he acquired a

    lifelong love of William Shakespeare and Robert Burns. He also acquired a

    passion for politics and in 1832 announced his candidacy for the legislature.

    Although he failed to win the election, he received 92 percent of the votes in the

    New Salem district, where he was known. When he ran again in 1834 he

    campaigned throughout the country and won decisively.

    - pp. 13-21: Lincoln’s ambitions were not fulfilled by a successful law practice. He

    wanted to run for Congress from this safe Whig district, but the concentration of

    Whig hopefuls in Springfield meant that he had to wait his turn under an informal

    one-term rotation system. When his turn came in 1846, Lincoln won handily over

    Democratic candidate Peter Cartwright, a well-known Methodist clergyman who

    tried to make an issue of Lincoln’s nonmembership in a church (Mary later joined

    Springfield’s First Presbyterian Church, which Abraham also occasionally


    Lincoln’s congressional term (1847-49) was dominated by controversies over the

    Mexican War. He took the standard Whig position that the war had been provoked

    by Democratic President James K. Polk. On December 22, 1847, Lincoln

    introduced “spot resolutions” calling for information on the exact “spot of soil”

    on which Mexicans shed American blood to start the war, implying that this spot

    was actually Mexican soil. Lincoln also voted several times for the Wilmot

    Proviso declaring that slavery should be prohibited in any territory acquired

    from Mexico. On these issues Lincoln sided with the majority in the Whig

    House of Representatives. In addition, Lincoln introduced a bill (which was

    buried in committee) for compensated abolition of slavery in the District of

    Columbia if approved by a majority of the District’s voters.

    Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican War was not popular in Illinois. “Spotty

    Lincoln,” jibed Democratic newspapers, had committed political suicide. “What

    an epitaph: ‘Died of Spotted Fever’.” When Lincoln campaigned in 1848 for the

    Whig presidential nominee Zachary Taylor, the “Spotty Lincoln” label came back

    to haunt him. The Whig candidate for Congress who succeeded Lincoln under the

    rotation system, his former law partner Stephen T. Logan, went down to defeat—

    perhaps because of voter backlash against the party’s antiwar stance. Taylor

    nevertheless won the presidency, but Lincoln did not get the patronage

    appointment he expected as commissioner of the General Land Office. Instead,

    he was offered the governorship of Oregon Territory, a post he turned down.

    Lincoln returned to Springfield discouraged with politics and devoted himself to

    practicing law. During the 1850s he became one of the leading lawyers in the

    state. His annual income reached $5,000. The burst of railroad construction

    during the decade generated a large caseload, and at various times he

    represented railroads. In two of his most important cases he won exemption of

    the Illinois Central from county taxation and successfully defended the Rock

    Island Railroad from a shipping company whose steamboat had hit the Rock

    Island’s bridge over the Mississippi River (the first such bridge every built). Yet

    it would be wrong to describe Lincoln as a “corporation lawyer” in the modern

    sense of that term. He appeared in court against corporations about as often as

    for them. In one important case he represented a small firm in a patent

    infringement suit brought against it by the McCormick Reaper Company. Lincoln

    continued to ride the circuit each spring and fall; the great majority of cases

    handled by Lincoln and Herndon (some two hundred each year) concerned

    local matters of debt, ejectment, slander and libel, foreclosure, divorce, and the


    A seismic political upheaval occurred in 1854 that propelled Lincoln back into

    politics. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, rammed through Congress under the

    leadership of Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas (an old acquaintance of

    Lincoln and once a rival for Mary Todd’s affections), revoked the ban on slavery

    in the Louisiana Purchase territory north of 36 [degrees] 30’. This repeal of a

    crucial part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 opened Kansas Territory to

    slavery. It polarized the free and slave states more sharply than anything else

    had done. It incited several years of civil war between proslavery and antislavery

    forces in Kansas, which became a prelude to the national Civil War that erupted

    seven years later. It also gave birth to the Republican party, whose principal

    plank was exclusion of slavery from the territories.

    Lincoln had said little in public about slavery before this moment, but during the

    next six years he delivered an estimated 175 speeches whose “central message”

    was the necessity to exclude slavery from the territories as a first step toward its

    ultimate extinction everywhere. That had been the purpose of the Founding

    Fathers, Lincoln believed, when they adopted the Declaration of Independence

    and enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 barring slavery from most of the

    existing territories. That was why they did not mention the words “slave” or

    “slavery” in the Constitution, but instead used the euphemism of “persons

    held to labor.” “Thus, the thing is hid away, in the constitution,” said Lincoln in

    1854, “just as an afflicted man hides away a wen or cancer.” By opening all of

    the Louisiana Purchase territory to slavery, the Kansas-Nebraska Act had

    reversed the course of the Founding Fathers. That was why Lincoln was

    “aroused” by this law, he later recalled, “as he had never been before.”

    Lincoln ran for the state legislature and took the stump for other “anti-Nebraska”

    Whigs. He offered the fullest exposition of his philosophy in a speech at Peoria

    on October 16, 1854. Slavery was a “monstrous injustice,” he said, that “deprives

    our republican example of its just influence in the world—enables the enemies of

    free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites.” With the Kansas-

    Nebraska Act “our republican robe is soiled, and trailed in the dust. Let us

    repurify it. . . . Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the

    practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. . . . If we do this, we shall not

    only have saved the Union; but we shall have saved it, as to make, and keep it,

    forever worthy of the saving.” These sentiments were Lincoln’s lodestar for the

    rest of his life.

    That same year a coalition of anti-Nebraska Whigs and Democrats, including

    Lincoln, appeared to have gained control of the legislature. Their first task in

    February 1855 was to elect a U.S. senator. Because the Illinois constitution

    prohibited the election of a sitting member of the legislature to the Senate,

    Lincoln resigned his seat to become a candidate. Through six ballots he led

    other candidates but fell short of a majority. To prevent the election of a regular

    Democrat, Lincoln threw his support to Lyman Trumbull, an anti-Nebraska

    Democrat (soon to become a Republican), who was elected on the tenth ballot.

    Deeply disappointed, Lincoln picked up his law practice again. In 1856 he helped

    found the Republican party in Illinois. With his speech at the new party’s state

    convention in Bloomington on May 29 (the famous “lost speech”—so called

    because newspaper reporters were supposedly so entranced by its eloquence

    that they neglected to take it down), Lincoln emerged as the state’s Republican

    leader. At the party’s national convention he received 110 votes in a losing bid

    for the vice presidential nomination. Lincoln campaigned for the Republican

    ticket headed by John C. Fremont, giving more than fifty speeches in all parts of

    Illinois. While Fremont won a plurality of the Northern popular vote in the

    three-party contest, he lost Illinois and the other crucial lower North states of

    Pennsylvania and Indiana, which the Democratic candidate, James Buchanan,

    added to the solid South to win the presidency.

    By the time Senator Douglas came up for reelection in 1858, he had broken with

    the Buchanan administration over the Lecompton constitution in Kansas. That

    constitution allegedly presented Kansas voters with a choice between

    admission of Kansas as a state “with slavery” or “with no slavery.” But the

    “no slavery” charter would merely prevent the future importation of slaves

    into the state while protecting the slave status of those already there. Douglas

    denounced it as a fraud on his cherished doctrine of “popular sovereignty”—

    letting the voters decide whether or not to have slavery. Some Republicans in the

    Northeast wanted the Illinois party to support Douglas for reelection in order to

    widen the Democratic split.

    But Illinois Republicans would have none of it. They nominated Lincoln for the

    Senate (an almost unprecedented procedure in that time, when state legislatures

    elected U.S. senators). Lincoln set the theme for his campaign with the famous

    “House Divided” speech at Springfield on June 16, 1858. “ ‘A house divided

    against itself cannot stand,’” said Lincoln, quoting the words of Jesus recorded

    in the Gospel of Mark. “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently

    half slave and half free. . . . It will become all one thing, or all

    the other.” The Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court in 1857 had legalized

    slavery in every territory on the principle that the U.S. Constitution protected

    such property—a principle that Lincoln feared would legalize slavery in every

    state as well as territory if the Southern-dominated Supreme Court had its way.

    But when Republicans gained national power and had a chance to reconstitute

    the Court, they proposed to ban slavery from the territories, thus stifling its

    growth and hastening its “ultimate extinction.” [Roy P. Basler, ed., The

    Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln
    , 9 vols. (New Brunswick, N.J., 1953-55),


    In the campaign, Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of debates. Douglas

    accepted, and the two met in seven three-hour debates in every part of the

    state. Why could the country not continue to exist half slave and half free as it

    had for seventy years? asked Douglas. Lincoln’s talk about the “ultimate

    extinction” of slavery would drive the South into secession. Douglas also

    upbraided Lincoln for his alleged belief in “negro equality.” Sensing a

    winning issue in Illinois, where racist sentiments were strong, Douglas

    shouted questions to the crowd: “Are you in favor of conferring upon the

    negro the rights and privileges of citizenship?” Back came the response, “No,

    No!” “Do you desire to turn this beautiful state into a free negro colony (‘no, no’)

    in order that when Missouri abolishes slavery she can send one hundred

    thousand emancipated slaves into Illinois, to become citizens and voters on an

    equality with yourselves? (‘Never,’ ‘no’). . . . If you desire them to vote on an

    equality with yourselves . . . then support Mr. Lincoln and the Black Republican

    party, who are in favor of the citizenship of the negro. (‘Never, never.’)” [Roy P.

    Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 3:9-10.]

    Douglas’s demagoguery put Lincoln on the defensive. A “Black Republican”

    would have no chance of election in Illinois. Lincoln denied Douglas’s

    accusations. He assured his listeners that “I am not, nor ever have been, in

    favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the

    white and black races (applause).” On other occasions, however, Lincoln

    pleaded: “Let us discard all this quibbling about this man and the other man,

    this race and...the other race being inferior...and unite as one people throughout

    this land, until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created

    equal.” Whether or not the black man was equal to whites in all respects, “in the

    right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns,

    he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living

    man.” The real question was the morality of bondage. “That is the issue that will

    continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself

    shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and

    wrong—throughout the world.” The problem with Douglas was that he “looks to

    no end of the institution of slavery,” while the Republicans “will, if possible, place

    it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate

    extinction, in God’s good time.” [Ibid., 3:315, 2:92-93]

    The popular vote for Republican and Democratic legislators was virtually even in

    1858, but because apportionment favored the Democrats, they won a majority of

    seats and reelected Douglas. Lincoln once again swallowed his disappointment

    and continued to speak for Republican candidates in the off-year elections of

    several midwestern states in 1859.

    - from Giants by John Stauffer; pp. 105-118: Mary liked Lincoln. She

    considered him “a man of fine intellect and (although crude) energetic and

    aspiring.” She predicted that one day he would rise above his “humble and

    modest position in society.” But she had issues too: she thought Lincoln

    “ungainly and angular” in appearance (definitely not a looker) and “deficient in

    those little links which make up the great chain of woman’s happiness.”

    One day during their courtship, they went horseback riding with a few other

    couples and came across a fallen tree. While the other men courteously helped

    their partners across the branches, Lincoln insouciantly raced over them, “never

    looking back to see how I got along,” Mary recalled. When she jokingly asked him

    about it, he replied that she “was plenty smart to take care of” herself. She let the

    incident pass, however, for she concluded that Lincoln’s boorishness stemmed

    from lack of training rather than meanness. In many things “he was sensitive

    almost to a fault,” she said. And sober, literate men were at a premium. [Douglas

    L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews,

    and Statements about Abraham Lincoln
    (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,

    1998), p. 262]

    When Lincoln went to Vandalia for the legislative session of 1836-37, he missed

    Mary. He anxiously awaited her letters and pined for her in his awkward way: “I

    really cannot endure the thought of staying here ten weeks,” he wrote her. “Write

    back as soon as you get this, and if possible say something that will please me,

    for really I have not been pleased since I left you.”

    But soon after moving to Springfield, Lincoln suddenly got cold feet. If he had

    attempted a love letter from Vandalia, now he penned a wily breakup note. “I am

    quite as lonesome here as I ever was anywhere in my life,” he confessed. But he

    wasn’t lonely for her: “I am afraid you would not be satisfied” in Springfield.

    “There is a great deal of flourishing about in carriages here, which it would be

    your doom to see without sharing in it. You would have to be poor without the

    means of hiding your poverty. Do you believe you could bear that patiently?”

    Aware of Mary’s comfortable upbringing and his own impoverished status,

    Lincoln worried about being able to support her in the lifestyle to which she

    was accustomed. In effect he was suffering from a crisis of manhood.

    Lincoln was so insecure about marrying a woman of means that he wanted to

    call off the marriage. But he didn’t want to lose face by breaking the

    engagement himself, and so his letter was designed to coerce Mary into doing it.

    He would “most positively abide by” his proposal to marry her, he wrote,

    “provided you wish it.” Then he gave Mary some advice: “my opinion is that you

    had better not do it. You have not been accustomed to hardship, and it may be

    more severe than you now imagine.” Mary, by all accounts a classy lady, took the

    hint and broke off their engagement.

    Eight months later, his insecurities having abated and his manly honor still intact,

    Lincoln turned the ordeal into a joke. In an April Fool’s letter of 1838 to Eliza

    Browning, a confidante and the wife of a Whig colleague, he recounted the affair

    without mentioning Mary’s name. He said that he had agreed to marry her, for he

    had seen her “some three years before, thought her intelligent and agreeable, and

    saw no good objection to plodding through life hand in hand with her.” But when

    he saw Mary again three years later he was horrified: “she did not look as my

    imagination had pictured her. I knew she was over-size, but she now appeared a

    fair match for Falstaff,” Shakespeare’s obese character. “I knew she was called

    an ‘old maid,’ . . . not from withered features, for her skin was too full of fat to

    permit its contracting into wrinkles; but from her want of teeth, weather-beaten

    appearance in general, and from a kind of notion that ran in my head, that

    nothing could have commenced at the size of infancy, and reached her

    present bulk in less than thirty-five or forty years.” Here Lincoln transposes his

    insecurities about marrying a classy, intelligent, and wealthy young woman into

    burlesque: he turns Mary into a toothless and obese old hag.

    Lincoln went so far as to describe his near marriage to Mary as a form of bondage

    that was far worse than his former enslavement to his father. He vowed “never

    again to think of marrying.” [Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of

    Abraham Lincoln
    , vol. 1, pp. 118-119, quotation from p. 119]

    The bonds of matrimony threatened his manly honor, fueling insecurities about

    the duties and obligations of a husband. He had just moved to Springfield to

    begin a new career, and like frontier heroes in the American imagination, he

    needed elbow room, and did not want a woman tying him down.

    Then too, Lincoln did not feel comfortable around eligible women. He was so

    tall and awkward—ugly, many said—that eligible women often made fun of him:

    “They’d laugh at him right before his face,” recalled one girl. As a result, he

    preferred men, with whom he felt at ease joking, laughing, and fighting. As one

    New Salem neighbor observed, Lincoln “did not seem to know what to say in the

    company of [eligible] women. . . . While he was never at ease with women, with

    men he was a favorite companion.” In fact he felt so awkward around women that

    as a general-store clerk he tried to avoid waiting on them, preferred instead to

    trade with the “men and boys.”* If Lincoln was a leader among men, owing to his

    size, strength, and love of dirty jokes, with women these same traits made him

    seem like a freak.

    * Michael Burlingame, The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln (Urbana:

    University of Illinois Press, 1994), pp. 123-146, quotations from p. 124]

    Understandably, then, Lincoln’s soul mate and the love of his life was a man

    named Joshua Speed. They met at a general store, and their relationship may

    have contributed to Lincoln’s sudden aversion to Mary Owens. [On Lincoln’s

    relationship with Joshua Speed, I have been influenced by the following sources:

    Jonathan Ned Katz, Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality

    (Chicago University of Chicago Press, 2001), pp. 1-25; David Herbert Donald,

    “We Are Lincoln Men”: Abraham Lincoln and His Friends (New York: Simon

    & Schuster, 2003), pp. 29-64; Wilson, Honor’s Voice, pp. 171-194, 233-264;

    C. A. Tripp, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Lewis Gannett (New

    York: Free Press, 2005), pp. 125-152, 225-237.]

    In April 1837 Lincoln rode into Springfield on a borrowed horse, with all his

    belongings (a few law books and some clothes) crammed into two saddlebags.

    He stopped at Bell and Company’s general store on the west side of town, set his

    saddlebags on the counter, and asked how much it would cost to buy a mattress,

    sheets, and pillow. The slender young man behind the counter was Joshua

    Speed, the store’s co-owner. He had a long tender face with high cheekbones,

    hair neatly combed and parted, full lips, and eyes that seemed both wise and

    playful. Five years younger than Lincoln, he looked cultured, even genteel. He

    was the son of a wealthy Kentucky planter who owned some sixty slaves, and he

    had come to Springfield to make his fortune. Though he had never met Lincoln,

    he knew of him, having heard him debate a Democratic opponent in Springfield in

    1836. His first impression had been of “a long, gawky, ugly, shapeless man.” But

    he shared Lincoln’s Whig politics and had been dazzled by Lincoln’s speech.

    Now he took out his slate and pencil and tallied up the sum of $17.00.

    “It is probably cheap enough,” Lincoln said. “But I want to say that cheap as it is I

    have not the money to pay. But if you will credit me until Christmas, and my

    experiment here as a lawyer is a success, I will pay you then. If I fail in that I will

    probably never be able to pay you at all.”

    There was such pathos in Lincoln’s voice that Speed “felt for him.” And as he

    gazed at him now, he saw such melancholy in his face that he suggested an

    alternative: “I have a very large room, and a very large double-bed in it, which you

    are perfectly welcome to share with me if you choose.”

    “Where is you room?” asked Lincoln.

    “Upstairs,” said Speed, pointing to the stairs leading to his room.

    Without a word, Lincoln took his saddlebags, went up the stairs, and after a few

    minutes came back down, his face now beaming with joy. “Well Speed, I’m

    moved,” he said.

    And so the two men became bedfellows. And for the next four years, long after

    Lincoln could afford his own room, they slept together in the same bed above the

    general store, sharing their most intimate thoughts. “No two men were ever more

    intimate,” Speed himself said of their relationship; Lincoln “disclosed his whole

    heart to me.” A mutual friend echoed this sentiment; Lincoln “loved this man

    more than anyone dead or living.” Even Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln

    later admitted that Speed was “the most intimate friend his father had ever had.”*

    * Donald, We Are Lincoln Men, p. 38; Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword:

    The Presidency and the Power of Words
    (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), p.

    31; Speed, quoted from Katz, Love Stories, p. 5; Speed, quoted from

    Herndon’s Informants, p. 430; William Herndon, quoted from Wilson,

    Honor’s Voice, p. 245; Robert Todd Lincoln, quoted from Donald, Lincoln

    , pp. 226-227, n. 15.

    William Herndon also said that Lincoln “poured out his soul” to Speed; and

    Lincoln’s White House secretaries and biographers John Nicolay and John Hay

    claimed that Speed was “the only—as he was certainly the last—intimate friend

    that Lincoln ever had.” See Wilson, Honor’s Voice, p. 245; and Nicolay and

    Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, vol. 1 (New York: Century Company, 1890),

    p. 194.

    Occasionally two of Speed’s clerks, William Herndon and Charles Hurst, slept in

    the room as well. Other young men would sometimes stop by for an evening,

    “clustering around the big stove to listen” to tall tales, trade poems and stories,

    and stage informal debates. Speed called the group “a social club without

    organization.” But most of the time Lincoln and Speed had their room to


    And in that room they shared their dreams and ambitions—Lincoln’s for fame,

    Speed’s for fortune. They gossiped about people in Springfield and the growth of

    the city. They discussed politics and championed Whigs. But mostly they talked

    about literature and themselves. Speed introduced Lincoln to Lord Byron, the

    world-famous overnight sensation and Speed’s hero—in fact Speed often wore a

    “Byronic collar” that funneled up his neck to his chin. Lincoln recited to Speed

    whole poems of Robert Burns and long passages of Shakespeare from memory.

    Through such sharing, they became passionate about each other’s favorite

    writers. And they were both drawn to tortured romantic heroes such as Byron.*

    When one of them got depressed, the other acted as nurse and nurturer, helping

    to lift him out of his “hypos,” as Lincoln called it. And they used humor as a way

    to manage their melancholy and cope with life’s tragedies.

    In many respects Lincoln and Speed’s romantic relationship followed the

    classical and Christian ideals of male friendship, which were widespread in the

    antebellum era. Intimate friends were soul mates, their two bodies uniting into

    one soul, according to Aristotle, who articulated an ideal of spiritual friendship

    that became incorporated into Christian and American traditions. To be sure,

    there were many different kinds of friendship, most of them utilitarian. But in

    spiritual or romantic friendship, the two men loved and respected each other,

    were fundamentally like each other, and expressed their affection in spiritual,

    emotional, intellectual, and often physical ways. [On spiritual or romantic

    friendship, see Katz, Love Stories; David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman’s

    America: A Cultural Biography
    (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), pp. 194-234,

    390-403; Caleb Crain, American Sympathy: Men, Friendship, and Literature in

    the New Nation
    (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001); David Leverenz,

    Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,

    1989); E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood: Transformation in Masculinity

    from the Revolution to the Modern Era
    (New York: Basic Books, 1993);

    Rotundo, “Romantic Friendship: Male Intimacy and Middle Class Youth in the

    Northern United States, 1800-1900,” Journal of Social History 25:1-25; Peter

    Gay, The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, vol. 2, The Tender

    (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 198-254; Leslie A.

    Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (New York: Criterion Books,

    1960); Fiedler, “Come Back to the Raft Ag’in, Huck Honey!” in A New Fiedler

    (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1999); David Deitcher, Dear

    Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918
    (New York:

    Harry N. Abrams, 2001); Michael Pakaluk, ed., Other Selves: Philosophers on

    (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1991); Ronald A.

    Sharp, Friendship and Literature: Spirit and Form (Durham: Duke University

    Press, 1986); Gilbert C. Meilaender, Friendship: A Study in Theological Ethics

    (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981); Leroy S. Rouner, ed., The

    Changing Face of Friendship
    (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press,

    1994); Robert Brain, Friends and Lovers (New York: Basic Books, 1976); Alan

    Bray, The Friend (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); C. Stephen

    Jaeger, Ennobling Love: In Search of a Lost Sensibility (Philadelphia:

    University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999).]

    * Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, Herndon’s Informants, pp. 21, 30,

    141, 156, 470; Douglas L. Wilson, [I]Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of

    Abraham Lincoln (New York: Vintage, 1998), pp. 72-77, 190-198; David Donald,

    We Are Lincoln Men: Abraham Lincoln and His Friends, pp. 33-34.

    Speed told Herndon, “I do not think [Lincoln] had ever read much of Byron

    previous to my acquaintance with him,” adding that Lincoln became “a great

    admirer of some of Byron’s poetry.” In another letter to Herndon, Speed says

    that Lincoln “forsook Byron,” suggesting that over time Lincoln abandoned

    Byron after having loved him.

    Another friend, William Greene, said that “[Robert] Burns was [Lincoln’s]

    favorite.” Greene also said that “Shakespeare, Burns and Byron were his

    favorite books.” And a third observer said that “Lincoln loved Burns generally.”

    See Herndon’s Informants, pp. 21, 30, 141, 156, 470.

    The two most famous nineteenth-century male friendships embody this

    romantic ideal and shed light on the nature of Lincoln and Speed’s

    relationship. Melville’s Ishmael and Queequeg sleep together “in the most

    loving and affectionate manner.”* . . . . Huck Finn and Jim, the other famous

    friendship, call each other “honey” and are “always naked, day and night,” as

    they float down the Mississippi River in the 1840s, not too far from where Lincoln

    and Speed lived.

    * Melville, Moby-Dick, pp. 21, 28, 57, 58; John Stauffer, “Douglass, Melville,

    and the Aesthetics of Freedom,” in Samuel Otter and Robert S. Levine, eds.,

    Douglass and Melville (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008),

    p. 146. See also Robert K. Martin, Hero, Captain, and Stranger: Male Friendship,

    Social Critique, and Literary Form in the Sea Novels of Herman Melville

    Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), pp. 67-94; and Elizabeth Hardwick,

    Herman Melville (New York: Penguin, 2000), pp. 68-97.

    As these examples suggest, sexual mores in the years before the Civil War were

    in many respects less repressed than they are today . . . . the distinction between

    homosexuality and heterosexuality did not even exist.* Moralists characterized

    all explicitly sexual relationships outside of marriage as sinful, and they

    treated male-male sex no differently than male-female sex. More general

    expressions of love (or intimacy) between two men (or two women) were

    considered perfectly normal: “Women hugged, kissed, slept with, and proclaimed

    love for other women,” and “men did the same with other men” without anyone

    raising an eyebrow. If passion was expressed in sexually explicit terms, moralists

    called it wrong regardless of whom it was with. [David Reynolds, Walt

    Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography
    , pp. 195-200, 390-400, quotation from

    p. 198; Caleb Crain, American Sympathy, pp. 1-15; Jonathan Katz, Love

    Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality
    , pp. 8-12.]

    * The terms “homosexuality” and “heterosexuality” did not enter the English

    language until 1892.

    Such openness about same-sex relationships stemmed partly from people’s

    interpretations of the Bible, where male-male sex is neither unusual nor treated

    much differently than male-female sex outside of marriage.* . . . . As one historian

    has summarized, “In the free, easy social atmosphere of pre-Civil War America,

    overt displays of affection between people of the same sex were common.”

    [Reynolds, Walt Whitman’s America, p. 198.] The line between romantic and

    erotic friendship, between ardor and eros, love and lust, could be very blurry


    * Daniel A. Helminiak, What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality (San

    Francisco: Alamo Square Press, 1994); Alan Bray, The Friend; Jaeger,

    Ennobling Love

    Male-male sex was also common in the military. Among sailors in the navy and

    marines, masturbating a mate was so widespread that men had a name for it:

    “shaking.” Herman Melville named one of his characters “Shakings” in his

    narrative of life on board a navy ship, and he described sailors “polishing

    [their] bright-work” or “embracing the ‘monkey-tails’ of the

    carronades, the screws, prickers, little irons, and other things.”* These

    sailors ignored or laughed at the moralists who called masturbation a

    disease that could kill you. Another marine, Philip Van Buskirk, kept a diary

    that details his male-male sex encounters with such frequency that one wonders

    how his ship ever reached its destination. [B. R. Burg, An American Seafarer in

    the Age of Sail: The Erotic Diaries of Philip C. Van Buskirk, 1851-1870

    Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), esp. pp. 24-31, 73-74; The Diary of Philip

    C. Van Buskirk
    , Manuscripts and University Archives, Allen Library, University

    of Washington, Seattle. I am deeply grateful to John Wood for introducing me to

    Philip Van Buskirk’s diary and enriching my understanding of romantic

    friendships more generally.]

    And Walt Whitman publicly and poetically “made love” to men and women as an

    aspect of his democratic vision: “all were lacking if sex were lacking, or if the

    moisture of the right man were lacking,” he chanted. “I am for those who believe

    in loose delights, I share the midnight orgies of young men.” [Whitman, “A

    Woman Waits for Me” (1867, 1871), and “Native Moments” (1860, 1881), in

    Leaves of Grass, ed. Sculley Bradley and Harold W. Blodgett (New York: W.

    W. Norton, 1973), pp. 101, 109 (quoted); Reynolds, Walt Whitman’s America,

    pp. 198-200, quotation from p. 199.] Such was the range of American romantic


    * Melville, White-Jacket, or The World in a Man-of-War (1850; Evanston and

    Chicago: Northwestern University Press and the Newberry Library, 1970), pp. 170-

    175 (ch. 42), quotation from p. 171

    There is no explicit evidence that Lincoln and Speed enjoyed carnal love, though

    Speed’s letters to Lincoln during the era of their intimacy (the 1840s) have sadly

    been lost, and his purported diary has not yet surfaced. But in one letter to

    Lincoln, Speed enclosed a violet, a flower symbolizing erotic intimacy. “The

    sweet violet you enclosed came safely to hand,” Lincoln responded, “but it was

    so dry, and mashed so flat, that it crumbled to dust at the first attempt to handle

    it. The juice that mashed out of it, stained a place on the letter, which I mean to

    preserve and cherish.”*

    In general Lincoln’s letters to Speed lack the effusive passion that is often

    characteristic of romantic friendship. But Lincoln never divulged this kind of

    romantic intimacy in his letters, not even to his wife or children. He preferred

    “short sentences & a compact style,” as he told Speed one night, a form that

    discouraged intimate epistles. In his letters he writes like a lawyer, not a lover.

    Still, the letters Lincoln wrote to Speed are the most intimate he ever composed.

    He signed them “Yours forever” or “Your friend,” and in other ways as well let

    Speed know how much he cared: “You well know that I do not feel my own

    sorrows much more keenly than I do yours, when I know of them,” he began one

    letter. When Speed was away, Lincoln said he missed him and was anxious for

    him. “I want you to write me every mail,” he said in one letter, and in another

    confessed, “I shall be very lonesome without you.” In yet another letter he made

    clear his undying love: “You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting—that I

    will never cease while I know how to do anything.”

    It was in his poetry and dirty jokes that Lincoln expressed a more explicit

    affinity for male-male love. In one poem, written as part of a prank when he was

    twenty, he describes how his neighbor Billy, having been spurned by women,

    finds happiness with a male lover, Natty:**

    But Billy has married a boy.

    The girls he had tried on every side,

    But none could he get to agree.

    All was in vain, he went home again,

    And since that he is married to Natty.

    So Billy and Natty agreed very well;

    And mamma’s well pleased at the match.

    Years later, Lincoln would echo Whitman by playfully referring to his intimacy

    with Speed: “I slept with Joshua for four years, and I suppose I ought to

    know him.” [Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by

    Distinguished Men of His Time
    (New York: North American Review, 1888), p.

    241 (quoted); Donald, We Are Lincoln Men, p. 38.]

    * The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 1, p. 283. Speed wrote this

    letter the day after he married Fanny Henning, and enclosing the violet could also

    symbolize the consummation of his love for Fanny. In his response, Lincoln

    implies that Fanny was the one who picked the violet: “I mean to preserve and

    cherish [it] for the sake of her who procured it to be sent.” Still, it is significant

    that Speed (and possibly Fanny) would want Lincoln to vicariously participate in

    their sexual intimacy. As Jonathan Katz brilliantly notes, women facilitated the

    intimacy between Lincoln and Speed. See Love Stories, pp. 3-25, especially

    pp. 14, 24.

    On the violet as a symbol of sexuality, see Kathy J. Phillips, “Billy Budd as

    Anti-Homophobic Text,” College English 56:8 (December 1994): 901; Beverly

    Seaton, “Towards a Historical Semiotics of Literary Flower Personification,”

    Poetics Today 10:4 (Winter 1989): 690-691, 694; R. H. Fogle, “A Reading of

    Keats’s ‘Eve of St. Agnes,’” College English 6:6 (March 1945): 327; Alfred

    J. Kloeckner, “The Flower and the Fountain: Hawthorne’s Chief Symbols in

    ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter,’” American Literature 38:3 (November 1966): 329.

    ** Tripp, Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 250-251; Donald,

    Lincoln, p. 35.

    According to neighbors in New Salem and Springfield, Lincoln had a powerful, at

    times uncontrollable, libido. He once confessed to William Herndon, Speed’s

    clerk and later his law partner and biographer, that in 1835 he had succumbed to

    his “devilish passion,” hired a prostitute, and then worried that he had syphilis.

    Herndon went so far as to say that Lincoln “could scarcely keep his hands off”

    prostitutes, whom he treated differently than eligible women. A New Salem

    neighbor remembered him patronizing a whorehouse with some buddies during

    the Black Hawk War. Near the end of his life, Speed, himself a “lady’s man,” told

    Herndon that he had for a time kept a courtesan at Springfield. Lincoln, “desirous

    to have a little,” asked, “Speed, do you know where I can get some?”

    Speed replied, “Yes I do, . . . I’ll send you to the place with a note. You can’t get

    it without a note or by my appearance.” [Herndon’s Informants, p. 719;

    Wilson, Honor’s Voice, pp. 181-185, quotations from p. 183.]

    If these accounts of Lincoln’s having sex with prostitutes are true, then there is

    no reason to suppose that he didn’t also have carnal relations with Joshua

    Speed, the man he shared a bed with for four years. For if his sexual passions

    were at times uncontrollable, then he likely would have acted on them not only

    with strangers but with his most intimate friend in the world. After all, he did not

    consider the one form of sex to be substantively different than the other. The

    concept of sexual identities, defined by the binary opposition of “homo” and

    “hetero,” was decades away. [My reading of Lincoln and Speed has been greatly

    informed by David Donald’s excellent chapter on their friendship in We Are

    Lincoln Men
    . I was struck by Donald’s use of rhetorical gymnastics to deny the

    possibility of any homoeroticism in Lincoln and Speed’s friendship. He ignores

    the blurred boundaries between eros and ardor, friendship and sex in American

    romantic friendships and in the long tradition from the classical era through the

    twentieth century. And he cites the opinion of Dr. Charles B. Strozier, the

    psychoanalyst and biographer of Lincoln, who argues that if Lincoln and

    Speed had a sexual friendship, then Lincoln would have been “a bisexual at best,

    torn between worlds, full of shame, confused, and hardly likely to end up in

    politics.” Yet as Donald himself notes, the binary understanding of sexuality,

    implicit in Strozier’s argument, did not exist in Lincoln’s day. The case of James

    Henry Hammond, one of the most famous politicians in the South and clearly

    “bisexual” (according to Strozier), explodes Strozier’s and Donald’s arguments,

    for Hammond’s friendship with Withers neither affected his public or political

    career nor created shame and confusion. It was Strozier’s mentor Freud, the

    father of psychoanalysis, who influentially asserted that homosexuality and

    bisexuality were diseases. Indeed Freud argued that romantic friendship was a

    mask for homoerotic longings. See Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time

    (New York: Anchor, 1988).]

    Regardless of how one interprets the nature of their intimacy, Speed “civilized”

    Lincoln in numerous ways, greatly contributing to his self-making. He was one of

    the most cultured men Lincoln had met, having grown up in luxury and comfort at

    Farmington, a beautiful plantation on the outskirts of Louisville. The Speed family

    home, a tall-ceilinged brick colonial, had been designed by Thomas Jefferson, a

    friend of the family. Joshua had been educated in “the best private schools in the

    West” and was as well-read as most graduates of Harvard or Yale. He showed

    Lincoln the meaning of respectability in manners, dress, and speech. Less than a

    year after Speed and Lincoln began living together, Lincoln’s writing acquired a

    depth and sophistication that had previously been lacking. It began to resemble

    the clear and compact style of Speed.*

    * Donald, We Are Lincoln Men, pp. 32 (quoted), 45; Fiske Kimball,

    “Jefferson’s Designs for Two Kentucky Houses,” Journal of the Society of

    Architectural Historians
    9:3 (October 1950): 16; Clay Lancaster, “Jefferson’s

    Architectural Indebtedness to Robert Morris,” Journal of the Society of

    Architectural Historians
    10:1 (March 1951): 9; Gary Lee Williams, “James and

    Joshua Speed: Lincoln’s Kentucky Friends,” PH.D. Dissertation, Duke University,


    For examples of Speed’s style resembling Lincoln’s, see Speed to Lincoln, July

    13 , 1849; September 22, 1859; May 19, 1860; November 14, 1860; October 26,

    1863; in Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.

    Lincoln’s new public voice first emerged in his 1838 address to the Young Men’s

    Lyceum of Springfield, a society devoted to education and uplift. It was the first

    speech he delivered as an intellectual rather than as a politician. Entitled “The

    Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,” it warned that the major threat to

    America stemmed not from another nation but from the enemy within: mobs and

    the havoc they caused. Lincoln cited instances of vigilante violence that had

    resulted in the murders of an Illinois abolitionist (Elijah Lovejoy), a number of free

    blacks, and Mississippi gamblers who were “useless in any community.” No

    matter how “obnoxious” the victims were, when mob violence replaced the rule

    of law, the government could not last. In evocative language he urged his

    listeners to “swear by the blood of the Revolution” and renounce the use of

    bloodshed. While the patriots of ’76 affirmed the Declaration, citizens today

    needed to support the Constitution. And while “passion” helped the founding

    fathers, “reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason must furnish” the

    materials for the future. “Let reverence for the laws . . . become the political

    of the nation.” Given Lincoln’s new career as a lawyer, it was a

    rather self-serving speech. But it also reflected his stunning transformation of

    style, in which he employed passionate language to urge unimpassioned reason.

    Lincoln repeated his appeal to reason over passion a few years later in a

    temperance speech. Likening drunkenness to slavery and tyranny, he called

    the recent temperance revolution (spearheaded by reformed drunkards) more

    than the political revolution of 1776 in spreading liberty. For while

    alcohol incited people’s fury, sobriety brought the “reign of reason.” He looked

    forward to a new age, he said, when “there shall be neither a slave nor a

    drunkard on the earth.” Again Lincoln’s speech used passionate rhetoric to

    invoke reason. And he asked Speed to read it. He was proud of it and wanted to

    know what his mentor thought.

    Lincoln’s embrace of reason over passion had personal as well as national

    relevance. For if he could not always control his sexual passions, neither could

    he contain his zeal for Whig politics. In December 1840 he committed one of the

    more embarrassing faux pas of his political career. He had just returned to

    Springfield after a grueling three months of campaigning for the Whig

    presidential candidate William Henry Harrison. He had been constantly on the

    road, travelling on horseback, staying at rowdy taverns, sleeping two or three to a

    bed, and consuming “mean” coffee and “greasy food.”

    He was worn out and now had to begin a legislative session in which the

    Democratic majority accused him and other Whigs of destroying the state’s

    economy with their road-building schemes. Democrats wanted to kill the state

    bank, a Whig institution, and the only way for Whigs to oppose it was to pull a

    no-show and deny the Democrats a quorum. Lincoln and a few other Whigs

    attended the meeting to ensure a proper roll call, but when they arrived, they

    realized that their very presence constituted a quorum. Desperate, Lincoln and

    his comrades tried to escape, and after finding the door locked, they opened the

    window and jumped out. It was a stupid, panicky move, for Democrats destroyed

    the bank anyway and Lincoln was charged with “dereliction of duty.” His

    “jumping scrape,” as he called it, became so celebrated that he tried to absolve

    himself a few weeks later with a speech in the legislature, but the chair called him

    to order and cut him off. [Herndon’s Informants, pp. 187-188, quotation from

    p. 187; The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 1, p. 226 (quoted);

    Wilson, Honor’s Voice, pp. 223-224.]

    The incident humiliated Lincoln and possibly contributed to a severe bout of

    depression during the winter of 1840-41. He was so incapacitated that he took to

    his bed. Speed said Lincoln “went crazy,” and he was so worried about his friend

    that he removed “razors from his room” and took away “all knives and other such

    dangerous things.” “It was terrible.” According to Speed, about the only thing

    that prevented Lincoln from committing suicide was “that he had done nothing to

    make any human being remember that he had lived.” Lincoln acknowledged his

    “deplorable state” of mind to his law partner John Stuart, adding, “I am now the

    most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole

    human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. . . . To remain as

    I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.” The nadir came on

    New Year’s Day. Lincoln later referred to it as “that fatal first of Jany. ’41.” It was

    the worst day of his life, probably the closest he ever came to killing himself.

    [Speed, quoted from Herndon’s Informants, pp. 197, 475; CW 1, pp. 229,


    There have been numerous theories seeking to explain the causes of “that fatal

    first of Jany. ’41.” But one fact is indisputable: it was on that day when Joshua

    Speed decided to move back to Kentucky and made plans to sell his interest in

    his general store. His father had died in the spring of 1840, his mother wanted

    him home, and he had been contemplating the move for months. On New Year’s

    Day 1841, Lincoln realized that his friend would be leaving him, and it crushed

    him.* As he later put it, “If we have no friends, we have no pleasure; and if we

    have them, we are sure to lose them, and be doubly pained by the loss.”

    * Donald, We Are Lincoln Men, p. 43

    - from Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and

    Fueled His Greatness
    by Joshua Wolf Shenk; pp. xi-xiv:

    The inclination to exchange thoughts with one another is probably an original

    impulse of our nature. If I be in pain I wish to let you know it, and to ask your

    sympathy and assistance; and my pleasurable emotions also, I wish to

    communicate to, and share with you.

    -- ABRAHAM LINCOLN, February 11, 1859


    A year before he died, Leo Tolstoy told this story to a reporter for the New

    York World

    “Once while travelling in the Caucusus,” he said, “I happened to be the guest of a

    Caucasian chief of the Circassians, who, living far away from civilized life in the

    mountains, had but a fragmentary and childish comprehension of the world and

    its history. The fingers of civilization had never reached him nor his tribe, and all

    life beyond his native valleys was a dark mystery.”

    Tolstoy told them of his work and of the industries, inventions, and schools of the

    outside world. But only when he turned to the subject of warriors and generals

    and statesmen did he arouse the interest of his tall, gray-bearded host, the

    chief. “Wait a moment,” the chief said. “I want all my neighbors and my sons to

    listen to you.”

    “He soon returned,” Tolstoy continued, “with a score of wild looking riders and

    . . . those sons of the wilderness sat around me on the floor and gazed at me as if

    hungering for knowledge. I spoke at first of our Czars and of their victories; then I

    spoke of the greatest military leaders. My talk seemed to impress them deeply.

    The story of Napoleon was so interesting to them that I had to tell them every

    detail, as, for instance, how his hands looked, how tall he was, who made his

    guns and pistols and the color of his horse. It was very difficult to satisfy them

    and to meet their point of view, but I did my best.”

    When Tolstoy finished, the chief lifted his hand. “But you have not told us a

    syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world,” he said

    gravely. “We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a

    voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were as strong as the

    rock and as sweet as the fragrance of roses. The angels appeared to his mother

    and predicted that the son whom she would conceive would become the

    greatest the stars had ever seen. He was so great that he even forgave the

    crimes of his greatest enemies and shook brotherly hands with those who had

    plotted against his life. His name was Lincoln and the country in which he

    lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to

    reach it he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell us of that man.”

    “Tell us please,” shouted one of the others, “and we will present you

    with the best horse of our stock.”

    “I looked at them,” Tolstoy said, “and saw their faces all aglow, while their

    eyes were burning . . . I told them of Lincoln and his wisdom, of his home life

    and youth. They asked me ten questions to one which I was able to answer.

    They wanted to know all about his habits, his influence upon the people and

    his physical strength. But they were astonished to hear that Lincoln made a

    sorry figure on a horse and that he lived such a simple life.”

    After telling them all he knew, Tolstoy said that he thought he could procure a

    photograph of Lincoln. He rode off to the nearest town, accompanied by one of

    the young riders. He found a photograph and gave it to him.

    “It was interesting,” Tolstoy said, “to witness the gravity of his face and the

    trembling of his hands when he received my present. He gazed for several

    minutes silently, like one in a reverent prayer: his eyes filled with tears. He

    was deeply touched and I asked him why he became so sad.”

    The young man answered with a question of his own. “Don’t you find,” he

    said, “judging from his picture, that his eyes are full of tears and that his

    lips are sad with a secret sorrow?”

    - pp. 7-8: Necessary as it is to acknowledge the plain facts and where they lead, it

    is also important to acknowledge the limits of what we can know. Those of us who are

    familiar with melancholy well know its elusive nature. It operates in deep recesses of

    thought and feeling, hidden not only from the view of an observer but, often, from the

    melancholic as well. The goal is not to know Lincoln’s melancholy perfectly, but to

    know it as best we can, and to see what story emerges.

    In broad terms, that story is fairly straightforward. From a young age, Lincoln

    experienced psychological pain and distress, to the point that he believed himself

    temperamentally inclined to suffer to an unusual degree. He learned how to

    articulate his suffering, find succor, endure, and adapt. Finally, he forged

    meaning from his affliction so that it became not merely an obstacle to overcome, but a

    factor in his good life.

    This is a story for our time. Affecting more than 100 million people a year, depression is

    the world’s leading cause of disability. In 2000, about a million people worldwide

    killed themselves—about equal to the number of deaths from war and homicide that

    year put together. Adjusting for population growth, unipolar depression is ten times

    more prevalent than it was fifty years ago. When we face this reality, the suffering of a

    prominent man in history takes on new poignancy, especially as it illuminates not

    only the nature of suffering but also the way it can become part of a productive life.

    As I worked on this book, I heard three main questions about Lincoln’s melancholy.

    First, was it a “clinical depression”? Part One investigates how Lincoln’s melancholy

    manifested itself in his early life and young manhood and how it fits—and challenges—

    the diagnostic categories of modern psychiatry. Second, what kind of treatment did he

    undergo? Part Two shows what Lincoln did in response to his melancholy, the

    strategies he used to heal and help himself. Third, in what way did the melancholy

    contribute to his work as a public figure? Part Three addresses how Lincoln’s

    melancholy became intertwined with his mature character, ideas, and actions.

    This is the story of a man who joined great pain and great power. From his early

    letters lamenting the “peculiar misfortune” of his temperament, to poetry he wrote

    on subjects such as suicide and madness, Lincoln’s life sprang from a search for

    meaning that explained, and even ennobled, his affliction. As president, Lincoln

    urged his countrymen to accept their blessing and their burden, to see that their

    suffering had meaning, and to join him on a journey toward a more perfect Union.

    - pp. 13-16 [Chapter 1—The Community Said He Was Crazy]: Three elements of

    Lincoln’s history—the deep, pervasive sadness of his mother, the strange spells of his

    father, and the striking presence of mental illness in the family of his uncle and

    cousins—suggest the likelihood of a biological predisposition toward depression.

    “Predisposition” means an increased risk of developing an illness. As opposed to

    traditional Mendelian inheritance—in which one dominant gene or two recessive genes

    lead to an illness or trait—genetic factors in psychiatric illnesses are additive and not

    categorical. “The genes confer only susceptibility in many cases,” explains the

    psychiatrist S. Nassir Ghaemi, in The Concepts of Psychiatry, “not the illness. That

    is, they only increase the likelihood that fewer or less severe environmental factors are

    required for the illness to develop, compared with someone who has fewer disease-

    related genes.”

    What tips a person from tendency to actuality? For centuries, philosophers and

    physicians emphasized climate and diet. Today’s experts focus on harsh life events and

    conditions, especially in early childhood. Lincoln’s early life certainly had its harsh

    elements. His only brother died in infancy in Kentucky. In 1816, Abraham’s eighth year,

    the family moved to southern Indiana. Two years later, in the fall of 1818, an infectious

    disease swept through their small rural community. Among those affected were

    Lincoln’s aunt and uncle, Thomas and Elizabeth Sparrow, and his mother, Nancy

    Lincoln. Eventually, the disease would be traced to a poisonous root, eaten by cattle

    and then ingested by humans in milk or meat. But when Abraham watched his mother

    become ill, the disease was a grim mystery that went by various names, from “puking

    fever” to “river sickness” to “fall poison.” Later, it became known as the “milk sick.” “No

    announcement strikes the members of a western community with so much dread as the

    report of a case,” said a newspaper of the time. A physician described the course of the

    illness: “When the individual is about to be taken down, he feels weary, trembles more

    or less under exertion, and often experiences pain, numbness and slight cramps.”

    Nausea soon follows, then “a feeling of depression and burning at the pit of the

    stomach,” then retching, twitching, and tossing side to side. Before long, the patient

    becomes “deathly pale and shrunk up,” listless and indifferent, and lies, between fits of

    retching, in a “mild coma.” First the Sparrows—with whom the Lincolns were close—

    took sick and died. Then Nancy Lincoln went to bed with the illness. Ill for about a week,

    she died on October 5, 1818. She was about thirty-five years old. Her son was nine.

    In addition to the loss of his mother, aunt, and uncle, a year or so later Abraham faced

    the long absence of his father, who returned to Kentucky to court another bride. For two

    to six months, Tom Lincoln left his children alone with their twenty-year-old cousin,

    Dennis Hanks. When he returned, the children were dirty and poorly clothed. Lincoln

    later described himself at this time as “sad, if not pitiful.”

    The one constant in Abraham’s life was his sister, Sarah. She was a thin, strong woman

    who resembled her father in stature, with brown hair and dark eyes. Like her brother,

    Sarah Lincoln had a sharp mind. She stayed with the family until 1826, when she

    married, set up house, and quickly became pregnant. On January 28, 1828, she gave

    birth to a stillborn child and shortly afterward died herself. “We went out and told Abe,”

    recalled a neighbor. “I never will forget the scene. He sat down in the door of the smoke

    house and buried his face in his hands. The tears slowly trickled from between his bony

    fingers and his gaunt frame shook with sobs.”

    In the emotional development of a child, pervasive tension can be just as influential as

    loss. Lincoln’s relationship with his father—the only other member of his nuclear family

    who survived—was so cool that observers wondered whether there was any love

    between them. The relationship was strained by a fundamental conflict. From a young

    age, Abraham showed a strong interest in his own education. At first his father helped

    him along, paying school fees and procuring books. “Abe read all the books he could

    lay his hands on,” said his stepmother. “And when he came across a passage that

    struck him he would write it down . . . then he would re-write it—look at it—repeat it.”

    But at some point Tom Lincoln began to oppose the extent of his son’s studies.

    Abraham sometimes neglected his farm work by reading. Tom would beat him for this,

    and for other infractions.

    To men who had been born and expected to die on farms, book learning had limited

    value. A man ought to be able to read the Bible (for his moral life) and legal documents

    (for his work life). Writing could help, too, as could basic arithmetic. Anything more was

    a luxury, and for working folks seemed frivolous. For generations, Lincoln men had

    cleared land, raised crops, and worked a trade. So when this boy slipped away from

    feeding livestock and splitting logs to write poetry and read stories, people thought him

    lazy. “Lincoln was lazy—a very lazy man,” remembered his cousin Dennis Hanks. “He

    was always reading—scribbling—writing—ciphering—writing poetry &c. &c.”

    Later, Lincoln’s self-education would become the stuff of legend. Many parents have

    cited Lincoln’s long walks to school and ferocious self-discipline to their children. But

    Lincoln pursued his interests in defiance of established norms. Far from being praised,

    he was consistently admonished. He may well have paid an emotional toll. Many

    studies have linked adult mental health to parental support in childhood. Lower levels of

    support correlate with increased levels of depressive symptoms, among other health

    problems, in adulthood. After Lincoln left home in his early twenties, his contact with his

    father was impersonal and infrequent.

    When reviewing the facts of Lincoln’s childhood, we should keep in mind some context.

    For example, in the early nineteenth century, one out of four infants died before their

    first birthday. And about one fourth of all children lost a mother or father before age

    fifteen. Of the eighteen American presidents in the nineteenth century, nine lost their

    mother, father, or both while they were children. None of Lincoln’s contemporaries, nor

    Lincoln himself, mentioned the deaths of his siblings and mother as factors contributing

    to his melancholy. The melancholy was unusual, but the deaths were not. In the same

    vein, while we ought not to ignore Lincoln’s conflict with his father and discount its

    possible emotional aftereffects, we risk missing more than we gain if we look at it

    exclusively through the lens of modern psychology. In fact, such a conflict between

    ambitious young men and their fathers was not uncommon in the early nineteenth

    century, a time of broad cultural and economic change.

    Abraham was not evidently a wounded child, but signs point to his being sensitive. He

    spent a lot of time alone. He was serious about his studies and reading, and

    uncommonly eager to explore imaginative realms, which psychologists often observe in

    sensitive children. He also took up a popular cause among sensitive people, the welfare

    of animals. Some boys found it fun to set turtles on fire or throw them against trees.

    “Lincoln would Chide us—tell us it was wrong—would write against it,” remembered one

    of his neighbors. His stepsister remembered him once “contending that an ant’s life was

    to it, as sweet as ours to us.”

    At the same time, Lincoln was a winsome child. Others sought him out, followed him in

    games, and applauded him when he mounted a stump and performed for them,

    pretending to be a preacher or a statesman. By the time he was a teenager, grown men

    would flock around him, eager to hear his jokes and stories. He was well liked.

    Lincoln was not depressed in his late teens and early twenties—at least not so far as

    anyone could see. When he left his family, at age twenty-one, he had no money or

    connections. His chief asset—perhaps his only real asset—was his golden character.

    Settling as a stranger in New Salem, a small village on a river bluff in central Illinois, he

    soon was among the best-liked men around. A gang of rough boys developed a fierce

    attachment to him after he made a stellar showing in a wrestling match, displaying not

    only physical strength but a sense of fairness. Others were impressed with Lincoln’s

    wit and intelligence, noticing, for example, how when he recited the poetry of Robert

    Burns, he nailed the Scottish accent, the fierce emotion, and the devilish humor.

    Though Lincoln looked like a yokel—tall and gangly, he had thick, black, unruly hair and

    he wore pants that ended above his ankles—he had good ideas and a good manner.

    “He became popular with all classes,” said Jason Duncan, a physician in New Salem.

    Bill Weintraub: ‘Frances just sent me an article from the Discovery channel about Abraham Lincoln's male "lovers."

    We've discussed one of Lincoln's many homosocial relationships on this board: Lincoln and Jack Armstrong, who met in a wrestling match -- Lincoln was apparently a formidable wrestler and a natural fighter -- and who went on to become fast friends.

    The Discovery article, which is based on the work of C. A. Tripp, a pioneering gay theorist, mentions a couple other men whom I hadn't heard of before.

    Let me just warn you that the article uses the terms "homosexual" and "gay" to describe Lincoln, which is absurd.

    Obviously he was neither homosexual nor gay, but it's likely he was involved sexually with other men.

    What's important to understand is that again, to the men of that era, which predates even the word "homosexual," what Lincoln did was not considered abnormal or weird or sinful.

    Remember that Abe Lincoln was a tremendously controversial figure in his own time, very much hated by many people, and he was assassinated.

    If those who detested him had thought he was guilty of sexual misbehavior with another man -- they would not have been quiet about it.

    So his passionate friendships with other men were the NORM.

    That's why they were not the occasion for significant gossip or calumny.

    This is what Frances said in her email about the article, and . . . my replies to her:

    Frances: I'm sure this is old news to you. But, that Coontz article, and your response to it about what the Victorian era men with the "fleshy poles" did in the bed reminded me of what I had heard about Lincoln a few years ago.

    [Bill: Yes. The bit about the "fleshy poles" comes from an early 19th-century letter written by a man who eventually became a senator from South Carolina.

    At the time of the letter, though, he was a student writing to his college roommate.

    This guy was a contemporary of or slightly older than Lincoln.

    And like Lincoln he married and had kids and was a pillar of the establishment.]

    Frances: Believe me, I'm kind of tired of this "who's gay?" bullshit. Because, like you, I know in my heart that human sexuality lies along a continuum for all of us. So it feels like we're beating a dead horse. But, I know yours is the job of educating men (and I hope more women) and that it is a neverending job for the foreseeable future.

    [Bill: It's a task we all share.]

    Frances: He certainly isn't perceived as an effeminate man,

    [Bill: That's right, these men weren't effeminate or in any other way "gay."

    Read about Jack Armstrong.

    This has nothing to do with 20th century conceptions of "homosexuality."

    This is men being men.]

    Frances: and one has to wonder how effeminate, if at all, his lovers were if indeed one was a Captain David Derickson of his bodyguard. So was Lincoln an analist, or a guy into frot?

    [Bill: He certainly wouldn't have been doing anal.

    And they didn't do oral either.

    They would have done Frot and mutual masturbation.

    Anal is an artifact of late 20th century gay male culture.

    It's not a common practice.

    And for most of human history oral has been denigrated also.

    Remember, people didn't have soap.

    They had no way of staying clean.

    It's very easy to communicate parasites via oral sex -- even just penile fellatio.

    But more than that it's what Robert keeps saying: Frot is NATURAL to Men.]

    Frances: It might be helpful to young guys like Justin to see that a great man that they have grown up with in American schools was not so different than themselves in this respect.

    [Bill: That's right. Lincoln was a Man.]

    Frances: Since so many men think that their love of men elevates them morally, we might credit this as doing no harm, and indeed enhancing his character. It would be interesting to see how A. Lincoln would have responded to the venality of characters like Haggard who would destroy a Justin.

    [Bill: Yes -- there were certainly people in the political life of Lincoln's time who were the hypocritical equivalents of Haggard and Foley.

    But the word "homosexuality" did not exist.

    So the preachers weren't out there railing against it.

    They would have talked about Sodom.

    But Lincoln wasn't a sodomite -- by any standard.]’

    - from Lincoln: A Novel by Gore Vidal; pp. 654-657: “Who killed him?” asked the

    princess, with entirely American directness.

    “The actor Booth,” said Hay, smoothly. “With the help of a group of fools that he had

    gathered around him. Then Booth was killed in a Virginia barn, and the fools were all

    hanged, including a lady called Mrs. Surratt, who was probably innocent. But at the

    time, Mr. Stanton was hanging everybody in sight. Anyway, Booth had already made a

    sort of confession in a letter to his brother-in-law.”

    “I cannot believe,” said the princess, with entirely Parisian suspiciousness, “that it was

    just one mad actor—and some fools. Surely, the Southerners were behind the plot?”

    “They deny it, and I believe them. They had nothing to gain by the President’s death,

    and everything to lose. After all, only Lincoln could have controlled the radicals in

    Congress. Mr. Johnson has”-- Hay remembered that he was a diplomat. “Mr.

    Johnson has his problems with the radicals.”

    “What has happened to Mrs. Lincoln?” asked the princess, changing the subject in

    order to show Hay that she was not taken in by his highly diplomatic response.

    “She lives in Chicago. The President left an estate of nearly a hundred thousand

    dollars. Of course, she spends a good deal of money.”

    To Hay’s surprise it was the father not the daughter who returned to the subject of the

    plot. “I hear so many intriguing rumors from old friends,” he said. “For instance, I have

    heard it suggested that there was indeed a plot in which the actor, Booth, was simply

    used by certain radical elements in Congress.”

    Hay smiled. “If that could be proved, don’t you think that Mr. Stanton would be the first

    to want to hang Senator Wade or Senator Chandler or General Butler, the three

    likeliest conspirators?”

    “But I had heard,” said Mr. Schuyler, almost apologetically, “that Mr. Stanton was

    involved, too. Hence, the speed—and secrecy—with which Booth’s allies were tried in

    Mr. Stanton’s own military court; and then hanged.”

    Hay thought that he had heard every possible Lincoln rumor; but this was new.

    Certainly, Stanton was the most compulsively devious man that Hay had ever dealt

    with. He was, also, very close to the radicals in Congress. As a result, there was great

    tension, currently, between him and President Johnson, who was pursuing Lincoln’s

    moderate policy toward the South, with his Secretary of War undercutting him at every

    turn. Politically, Stanton and Lincoln would have fallen out, if the President had lived.

    But since all that Stanton was in the world he owed to Lincoln, Hay thought it most

    unlikely that he would conspire to kill the President.

    Certainly Hay could never forget the scene in the East Room, when the President lay in

    state. All day mourners filed past the casket on its black catafalque. Hay was standing

    near the door, Tad’s hand in his, when Stanton entered; and Tad said—very clearly for

    him—“Mr. Stanton, who killed my father?” Stanton had given a sort of cry; and hurried

    from the room. In fact, Stanton was so enraged and demoralized by the murder that he

    had ordered Ford’s Theater to be forever shut, an eccentric gesture in the eyes of many

    but typical of the bereaved odd man who was now being mentioned as party to the

    murder of, perhaps, the only man that he ever liked.

    Hay tried to explain Stanton to Mr. Schuyler; but it was never easy to explain Stanton to


    Fortunately, Hay was able to fuel somewhat the European love of intrigue. “One

    interesting thing, which might relate to what you have heard. We do know now that

    there was a second plot afoot. We also know that Booth got wind of it, and he was

    afraid that others might strike before he did.”

    “Now that,” said Mr. Schuyler, “might be the solution. Do you think that the radical

    element in Congress would be capable of such a plot?”

    “Oh, yes!” Hay was delighted at the prospect of a future trial of Wade and Chandler

    and Butler—and Sumner, too. Why not? Hang every last one of them. “After all, the

    daughter of one of the radical senators was a close friend of Booth’s; and actually got

    him a ticket to attend the Second Inaugural.”

    “Oh, you must write about all this, Mr. Hay!” The princess was now properly stimulated.

    “I think I probably shall, with Mr. Nicolay, the President’s other secretary.”

    “Where,” asked Mr. Schuyler, “would you place Mr. Lincoln amongst the presidents of

    our country?”

    “Oh, I would place him first.”

    Above Washington?” Mr. Schuyler looked startled.

    “Yes,” said Hay, who had thought a good deal about the Tycoon’s place in history. “Mr.

    Lincoln had a far greater and more difficult task than Washington’s. You see, the

    Southern states had every Constitutional right to go out of the Union. But Lincoln said,

    no. Lincoln said, this Union can never be broken. Now that was a terrible responsibility

    for one man to take. But he took it, knowing he would be obliged to fight the greatest

    war in human history, which he did, and which he won. So he not only put the Union

    back together again, but he made an entirely new country, and all of it in his own


    “You astonish me,” said Mr. Schuyler.

    “Mr. Lincoln astonished us all.”

    “I rather think,” said Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler to his daughter, “that we should

    take a look at this new country, which plainly bears no resemblance to the one I left, in

    the quiet days of Martin Van Buren.”

    “Well, come soon,” said Hay. “Because who knows what may happen next?”

    “I have been writing, lately, about the German first minister.” Mr. Schuyler was

    thoughtful. “In fact, I met him at Biarritz last summer when he came to see the emperor.

    Curiously enough, he has now done the same thing to Germany that you tell us Mr.

    Lincoln did to our country. Bismarck has made a single, centralized nation out of all the

    other German states.”

    Hay nodded; he, too, had noted the resemblance. “Bismarck would also give the vote to

    people who have never had it before.”

    “I think,” said Mr. Schuyler to the princess, “we have here a subject—Lincoln and

    Bismarck, and new countries for old.”

    “It will be interesting to see how Herr Bismarck ends his career,” said Hay, who was

    now more than ever convinced that Lincoln, in some mysterious fashion, had willed his

    own murder as a form of atonement for the great and terrible thing that he had done by

    giving so bloody and absolute a rebirth to his nation.

    Last edited by HERO; 02-12-2014 at 10:04 PM.

    Kristen Pfaff and Kurt Donald Cobain didn't like the scene anyhow

  26. #26
    Moderator Reficulris's Avatar
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    Learn to use spoilers or link to external sites. Damned wall of texts... I have a deja-vu, are you the same guy I told this to before? No-one is going through such a wall of text. It melts my brain (and I am used to read large quantities of text) and completely kills the discussion a-priory.

    What if, inadverdidly, someone stumbles upon this and actually reads it.... terrible...terrible...

  27. #27
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    I'm just reading a bio of his by Ronald C. White.


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